Monday, July 20, 2009

More Griping About Neighbors

In the comments on my last post Arlene and Billie mentioned ATV problems with neighbors. I've had more than enough problems with ATVs and dirt bikers here. When I first moved here almost 9 years ago, it seemed like almost every kid on this street had a dirt bike. Of course, I didn't find that out until AFTER I moved in. This is a "quiet" dead end road, or so I thought. During the summer and on weekends and school holidays, the ATVs and dirt bikes would be speeding up and down the street.

Not only is it illegal for these vehicles to be on the road (they're not insured or registered) most of the kids were well under 16yo. Nine years later, since I still saw the 2 youngest at the school bus stop last year, that means they were under 10. Mass. law regarding dirt bikes and ATVs states that children under 16 years of age are supposed to be accompanied by an adult! It makes me so angry. Even if it weren't for the danger with the horses and dogs (Lyca seems to think they're noisy deer) I hate listening to the noise all day long and smelling the diesel fumes when I'm out hiking in the woods with the dogs. What is it with the parents letting their kids do this? It's illegal! And, it's illegal because it's not safe for all concerned!

My riding ring runs right along the road and at about the mid-point of the ring the road starts to drop down hill. I swear the kids would come speeding down the road trying to "catch air" there. Doesn't make for calm riding. If I wanted to hack out, I could only safely go out when the kids were in school, or else very early in the mornings. It wasn't safe to be out after 9:00 am on weekends or holidays.

Jeeves, being the perfect horse that he is, was pretty good about most of it. Unless they're going really fast and popping the clutch, he doesn't spook much, but even he gets upset when they're being idiots. Lance is high strung anyway and it's dangerous for her to ride him with the dirt bikes around. So, we started calling the police every time we heard them. I felt bad bothering the police, but fortunately, one of the police officers is a horse person, so he understands. It took awhile, but they started nabbing the kids and slowly things improved. Also, most of the kids have grown up and have either moved away or are in college or working, so they're not around. There's only 2 left and they're manageable. It's so nice now to be able to hop on Jeeves on a hot afternoon and just hack him down the street. I keep my ear out, especially around the 2 houses that still have the kids that ride, but so far, I haven't had any problems. Phew!

Now, if I could just convince Terri that it's safe for her to venture out with Lance, maybe we can actually go out on the trails together.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I Hate My Neighbors...

But, I love my horse. Last Friday, the neigbor across the street started setting off firecrackers about 9:00pm. Jeeves and Lance go out over night, so they were out and racing around in a blind panic. I was already in my jammies, so I threw on jeans and t-shirt, stomped down the driveway and over to the neighbor's. It was actually my neighbor's son with his 4 yo son. The kid took one look at the scowl on my face and trotted off behind his father. I told the guy he was scaring the cra& out of my horses and asked him if he could hold off on the fireworks so I could catch the horses and secure them. He just mumbled that he was done. I went back across the street and into the paddock with the boys and calmed the horses down as much as I could, They were still pretty tense but at least they had stopped galloping and were eating hay.

The next day, when I went to ride, Jeeves had a cut at the top of his left front hoof--in the coronet band, or that rubbery tissue at the top. Grrrr! It's not bad, roughly nickel sized, sort of a horizontal slice along the top that created a bit of a pocket. I've been hosing it off and keeping it clean. A bit of a worry because of where it is, but I don't think it will affect the hoof growth. I hope not.

That Saturday, he was very tense riding in the ring. I can't say as I blame him. The ring runs parallel to the road right across the street from that neighbor. So, my ride that day was focused on stretching and relaxation, not much else.

Sunday, I had a lesson with Kathy. My first lesson in over a month. It was going really well, when I realized something was going on across the street...I heard some tree branches falling. As I started to look up, Kathy told me not to look, just keep riding. I looked up--the guy was up in a big old oak tree just across the street--he was a good 30 feet up with a chainsaw. As I looked he started up his chain saw. Ack! Jeeves can deal with chain saws, we certainly ride with all sorts of noisy equipment going all the time. However, it's an entirely different story to have large tree limbs falling from 30 feet up just across the street!

Fortunately, the guy started off trimming small branches, so it wasn't too bad. We were about 30 minutes into our ride, so Jeeves was well "on the aids" and listening to me, though he perked his ears when a branch dropped. Whenever we headed down the long side next to the street, he insisted on doing a 1/2 pass over to the center line as quickly as he could. Kathy just laughed and said she didn't blame him at all. We started to work on trot extensions across the diagonal just as the guy started dropping larger limbs and that gave us some extra impulsion! At that point, Kathy said that was enough, he wasn't going to tolerate much more.

I love this horse! How many horses would continue working relatively calmly under those conditions?! He's so good!

Then, that evening, I had just finished feeding dinner and the idiot started setting off fireworks again!! Argh! Have I mentioned fireworks are illegal in this state? Sigh. So, I marched off down the driveway again and when he saw me he just dropped the fireworks. I told him that if he would just let me know when he was going to set off the fireworks, I would appreciate it, then I could have the horses secured. He just mumbled that he wouldn't do it anymore.

So far, no fireworks since then, but today the guy climbed up in that tree again while I was tacking Jeeves up. He started the chain saw up just as I swung my leg over Jeeves's back. I managed 10 minutes of riding before the big limbs started coming down and Jeeves got so spooked he galloped off across the ring. Oh, well, I'll ride early tomorrow morning.

The pics are of one of my antique roses--Henri Martin. A moss rose--you can see the buds have a mossy look to them. If you rub the "moss", you'll find it has a balsam scent. I have a "thing" for old garden roses. I don't use chemicals and don't pamper my plants. The old garden roses are perfect for that--nothing bothers them. They have fragrance to die for, the modern roses just can't compare. With the boys going out at night, I haven't been taking pics of them, so the garden pics will have to substitute for them.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

New Exercises

Wanted to post these old pics of Jeeves and Lance playing last winter. Notice Lance showing Jeeves how to pull his blanket. And, yes, I often find their blankets on the ground, with all the straps and clips still fastened. Houdinis!

I've had a couple of lessons so far this year and wanted to share the new exercises Kathy has given me. First, and one that I really like is the simplest. Just back up. More than just the standard 3 or 4 steps. I find with Jeeves it's about 10-12 steps backing up before I feel "it". Don't worry about going straight, chances are as the horse is backing up the hamstring on one side or the other will suddenly stretch and the horse will start taking longer steps with that hind leg and end up going crooked. That's ok. Don't rush it, just sit light and keep asking for backward steps. The "it" that you're looking for is a rounding or engagement of the loin. I can feel his back engage just behind the saddle. Then, I just ask him to step forward into an active trot and he's very light, very round, and very active. I was doing it too much, I think, as he stopped backing up at one point and started doing turns on the forehand instead. So, now I only ask for this every other or 3rd ride.

The next 2 exercises that Kathy has given us are canter exercises. While I love the canter and tend to work more in the canter than any other gait, I do find the canter exercises are the hardest! Why is that? Hmmmm....

Anyway, the first one starts out in the walk. On a 5 meter circle, although I admit I cheat and probably do it on an 8m circle. Change the bed to the outside and pick up the counter canter on the 5m circle. Canter 1/2 the circle then down to the walk. Repeat a few times, then walk break. Change direction and do the same in the other direction. I don't know about Jeeves, but I really felt the burn in my thighs doing this one! It was hard, but it definately helped with collection and engagement.

The last exercise is helping our lead changes. Again, start in the walk on a 10 meter circle. Bend to the outside and pick up the counter canter. Depending on where you pick up the canter, canter until you can head off on a slight diagonal line to the long side, ending up on the track in a counter canter, then ask for the lead change and send the horse forward in big canter. Repeat a few times in each direction. Again, it's not an easy one but it's helping his lead changes.
Enjoy! If anyone out there tries these, let me know what you think!

Sunday, July 5, 2009


This pic was taken in January after storm that dumped about 18" of snow. The pic shows the benefit of riding in the snow--Jeeves doesn't use his hocks like that any other time! This was such a miserable winter, with mostly ice, that I wasn't able to maintain any of his condition over the winter. When riding in snow, you don't want to ask for big strides. Small strides with lots of half-halts to help with their balance is the key. The other thing I try to focus on over the winter is my position and making sure I get a response from a light aid.

This pic was in late April after my first lesson this spring. Now, we're asking for a big stride. Getting him to stretch and move forward in an active gait.

This pic was in mid-May, asking for some collection. Not alot, but we're making progress. What I like about these pics is that I can see my position HAS improved. I started riding in my late 20's and have always struggled with my position. I've always been dismayed when I see a pic of me riding to see that I'm still in a chair seat and my hands are too high. I haven't seen any pics of me riding for about 4 years, so I was a bit scared to see these. Other than the fat that I seem to have accumulated over the last few years, I was pleasantly surprised to see that my thigh is finally down where it belongs, I have a good line from elbow to bit and from shoulder, hip, heel. The pics from 2 posts ago show these things more than these do. I'm slightly forward in the pic just above
I suspect I would still be dismayed if I saw a video of me riding. I think my hands are still too busy and my legs are not as quiet as they should be. It's all a work in progress and I have such a wonderful teacher in Jeeves.
He's been giving pony rides to my friend who is staying here recuperating. It's been almost a year since she's ridden and she has a lot of fears because of bad experiences with her horse. She wasn't sure about getting on Jeeves since he's so enormous, but I convinced her that he would be perfect and he was. My ex, who was a rank beginner, used to take lessons on him and he never put a foot wrong. Despite his enormous size, he's really not that wide to sit on. My saddle is a medium tree, so she wasn't uncomfortable on him that way. And, he's so relaxed and calm that she wasn't scared being up there. So far, I'm just leading her around on him with a lunge line, though the last ride she was able to do more steering and was able to use her leg enough to ask for the trot herself. She can't do much, but Jeeves has been the perfect mount for her. The hardest part has been dismounting. I stand Jeeves up next to my truck with the tailgate down and she gets off onto the tailgate, then gets down from there. As long as he gets his mints, Jeeves is happy. :-)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Knowing When to Stop

I mentioned in the previous post about my friend who is staying with me while she recovers from her hospital stay. She's been a source of concern for a while now and this illness has reinforced to all of her friends and family that it's really not in her best interest to be living alone on her farm taking care of her two horses. However, she doesn't see it that way.

She's 73 yo and has always been independent and taken care of herself. She raised her 2 kids pretty much on her own. While 73 yo is still young in a lot of ways, she's been on a decline for the last couple of years. Part of it we thought was due to injuries--she's had a string of them. A fall from her horse which resulted in 4 broken ribs. Then she fell and broke her shoulder. Then a pallet fell on her leg and tore a large gash from her leg. Last summer was a melanoma on her leg. It's been one thing after another and each one has taken longer and longer for her to recover from. Plus, there have been signs of confusion.

The condition of her horses when they came here was not the perfect condition that she normally keeps them in. They were both thin, ratty coats. Nothing horrible, but not up to the standards she normally keeps. It was pretty clear that she has not been up to maintaining their condition.

While she's been here, it's become apparent that she can handle the routine, familiar things. She measure out the grain and supplements for her horses because she's been doing it for years. However, the grain for my horses--even though Jeeves gets the same pellets as her horses--is beyond her. There are only 2 "grain" bags in the chest freezer that I store the grain in--the pellets and the Forage Extender that Lance gets. The pellets are in a black bag. The Forage Extender is in a white bag with blue lettering. The bag does not say Forage Extender on it, but most people are able to figure out that since the black bag is the pellers, the blu bag must be the Forage Extender. She is just not capable of coming to this conclusion.
She will have someone come daily to muck the stalls and help with any of the heavy stuff, but she is intent on doing feedings and turnouts/bringing in. Can she do it? Sure. Can she do it well? No. She will wear herself out again and will probably be back in the hospital within the year. However, they're her horses, she's considered a competent adult, so it's her choice to make.

I find it amazing that, considering how high her standards of care used to be and given the evidence of her horses's general decline in condition, she refuses to consider any alternatives to their care. Are they neglected? No. Suffering? No. But, they are noticeably ribby. One of the horse's hooves were bad enough that he was slightly footsore. Had it gone on longer, he would soon have become lamer. Her horses have always leaned towards the plump side. She is worried about why they're so thin. She was horrified at the state of her horse's hooves. But, she's not making the connection that it's because she's not able to maintain them anymore.

The ideal would be for her to move to a condo/apartment near a boarding facility or near me and keep the horses here. She's actually gained enough strength and balance back that I think she could actually do some light riding again, but certainly not all alone on her farm. If she were here, I could be around and help her ride. She could come and brush them and do basic care like she is doing now, while not wearing herself out with the other stuff. But she will not consider it. She believes she has at least 3 or 4 more years of living on her farm caring for the horses. :-(

Her friends and family are trying to set things up so that she can live there as safely as possible. But, when does helping become enabling? I will go by and check on the horse's condition--remind her about worming, etc. Another friend has been going by every couple of weeks for the last 2 years to drop hay for her. Is continueing to do this helping? Or enabling? The woman she has do stalls basically is doing it as a charity--she normally charges $25/hour, but she's only been charging her $15 for the whole barn. Is this helping? Or enabling? I have decided I will not help other than checking on the horses condition occasionally. She and the horses will always be welcome here, but if she thinks she can do it on her own, then she needs to do it on her own. And, she should be paying the going rate for barn work. But, maybe I'm just being hardnosed.

It's a lesson for me, to see this. I already have decided that Jeeves will probably be my last horse. I turned 50 this year, he turned 15. Hopefully, he'll have another good 10+ years, that will put me in my 60s. Do I really want to be wearing myself out doing barn work in my 60s and into my 70s? No. There will always be horses for me to lease and/or take lessons on. Already, the time and energy of maintaining the farm on my own takes it's toll on me--physically, financially, and emotionally. I enjoy it and love having the horses in my back yard, but there are times it can get overwhelming. Seeing what my friend is going through, what she's putting her friends and family through, and what she's putting her horses through only reinforces my decision.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bad Blogger

I've been a very bad blogger. I guess I don't really qualify as a blogger at all. I have lots of excuses...

First, my usual excuse--work was taking too much time and energy. Since I wasn't riding much through the winter, I wasn't inspired much to blog about anything back then.

Then, my personal computer died. My company has installed all sorts of tracking software, so I couldn't do anything on my work computer, so that left me with no personal computer access while I tried to fix my old computer, then agonized over whether to get a Mac or a PC. A new computer was definately not in my budget this year, but, such is life.

Then, we had so much rain and flooding back in March that Jeeves's stall was flooding...alot. I was carting 4 or 5 wheelbarrows full of heavy, wet, bedding out of his stall several times a day. It didn't take long for my back to go out. So, when I wasn't working, walking dogs, mucking out stalls, I was lying flat on my back on the floor. Not much chance of doing any blogging in that position.

Then, during all that a dear friend got sick. I ended up taking her two older TB geldings while she was in the hospital. The girls have moved up to Vermont on a big farm where they are out with a herd of 2 yos learning about herd etiquette. When my friend was released from the hospital, she came here for recuperation. She's still here, getting better, gaining strength every day.

Finally, my older brother, really the only family I have left, is bent on drinking himself to death. :-( It started last autumn when he was laid off work. Apparently, without a job, he had nothing else to do but drink. He has been spiralling out of control since then. He spent over a month in the hospital, 22 days of that in ICU. For awhile, we thought he might have to spend the rest of his life (he's 55 yo) in a locked psych ward. :-( Miraculously, he recovered enough that he was released from the hospital last Monday. He should have gone directly to a 90-day, in-house substance abuse recover program, but he refused. Said he wanted to find a day program, despite the doctors all saying he NEEDS to be in a residential program.

He managed to keep it together long enough to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding on Friday (yes, poor kid had to deal with this crap while preparing for her wedding). He was not allowed at the reception. But, yesterday, he pushed his wife over so that he could get his car keys (he's not supposed to drive, per doctor's orders. He's still not "normal") and he went and bought 3 quarts of vodka. The police did come and take his car keys. At this point, I told him that I am through. IF and when he decides that he needs help and agrees to go into an in-house program I will gladly pick him up and take him there. But, until then he is dead to me. His son has done the same. I told his wife she should do the same. He will just push her around again and take her car keys if she stays with him.

So, I'm done. I've lost too many days of work and too many days of riding and too many days in my garden to the lost cause that he has become. It breaks my heart, but there is nothing more that I can do for him. He has to do it.

There's more, these were just the highlights.

As is always the case, my animals, especially Jeeves, have been my solace and my sanity through all this. For now, I'll just share these pics of Jeeves and me.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Cold is Here!

It was COLD this morning. Temp outside my kitchen window was -10F. Coldest it's been here since 2005. I bundled up in many layers before venturing outside. The dogs and I had a quick, if somewhat abbreviated walk. We normally do at least 2 miles, but given the conditions, I decided a mile was enough.

It was so cold, the horses had a layer of frost on their hair. Jeeves looks like he's wearing white mascara. :-) They don't seem to mind. When I went out to feed them, both he and Lance were standing outside their stalls, happy as can be. Thankfully, there's not much wind.

I put their hay out and Jeeves went right out, happily munching on the hay while the sun struggled to rise above the horizon. They are eating more hay than they normally eat. The girls are eating almost twice as much. The boys aren't getting quite that much, but they have the benefit of blankets to help keep them warm. Plus, they can go in their stalls over night.

If they want to. They seem to prefer to stand outside, though. The girls have the run-in shed and they'll stay in there if it's really nasty out. But, mostly, they hang out in the open, also.

Riley helped me with morning chores today. He kept a watch on things to make sure everyone behaved.

After about an hour out there, I was starting to get cold, so Riley and I headed inside for the warmth of the woodstove.